What happened to Bruce Wayne and his butler Robin? In the wake of the DC Suicide Squad movie, fans have been wondering how the Dark Knight superhero’s story would have played out if he hadn’t tragically taken his own life.

The new movie, simply titled The Batman, tells the tale of a dark and troubled Bruce Wayne who must overcome his psychological demons as he fights against crime in Gotham City. The film stars Oscar winner Ben Affleck (Argo) in the lead role. The movie also stars Camilla Mckenna (The Lord of the Rings) as Alfred Pennyworth’s grand­daughter and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) as the Joker.

The question of how the Joker would have been killed off had Batman not committed suicide still burns in the minds of many fans. Was it a one-time thing or was it a way of life that saw the Dark Knight doom himself to an early death?

Fortunately, we now know the real story behind Batman’s sudden demise and how it impacted Bruce’s journey to become The Bat-Man. Here’s everything you need to know.

The Death of Bruce Wayne

The Dark Knight was one of the most popular superhero films of all time, earning over $1 billion worldwide and becoming the third highest-grossing film of all time, with only The Godfather Part II and The Dark Knight Rises surpassing it in both domestic and international box-office revenue. It also became the best-selling comic book of all time, with over 125 million copies sold worldwide.

But just a few months after its release, it was revealed that Heath Ledger had died of a drug overdose before the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. The movie’s opening scene, in which Ledger’s Joker character kills Batman, had to be reshot with Aaron Paul taking over the role due to the actor’s untimely death. Paul went on to win an Emmy for his performance in the role, which has since become the most photographed scene in cinematic history.

But beyond the fact that Ledger’s Joker scene had to be redone, few fans knew the real reason behind Marvel’s comic book blockbuster.

As it turns out, Bruce Wayne took his own life. No fan had seen fit to ask the question until that point, but now that it had been asked, the truth could not be ignored. In response to the unexpected tragedy, writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso created the graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, which tells the story of a disillusioned Bruce Wayne who has retired from being Batman and lives a quiet, secluded life in his cave. He spends his time obsessively reading the classics and watching old films. One day, he comes across an old medical journal with an interesting article he hasn’t read in years.

The journal details the case of serial killer Jack the Ripper, whose murders inspired Arthur Merlin (The Man Who Loved Redheads) to become Batman. While reading the article, Wayne becomes convinced that he is the infamous Jack the Ripper and that his retirement from crime-fighting has been a pointless exercise. Upon returning home from the library, Bruce Wayne places a call to Alfred, asking for his butler to bring him a supply of his legal weapons. Hoping to talk his colleague out of suicide, Alfred brings along a psychiatrist who specializes in mental health issues, as well as a parlor full of fancy candles, which Wayne lighted upon entering the room. As they begin to talk, a shot rings out, and Alfred is dead before he even has a chance to explain the purpose of his visit. Bruce then turns the large handgun he’s holding on himself and kills himself.

The Fall of Robin

Before the tragic death of his co-star, Heath Ledger, it was reported that the young actor had become frustrated with filming his scenes and had threatened to quit the movie. Even more curious is the fact that the Joker’s shooting spree was directly followed by another intense bout of violence between Bruce Wayne and Robin, witnessed by both child and adult spectators alike. The resulting injuries forced the Dark Knight to retire from being Batman once and for all. In the graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, it is revealed that Robin had become convinced that Bruce Wayne was Jack the Ripper and had vowed to avenge his father’s death by killing the millionaire. This led him to steal Batman’s secret identities and use them to commit crimes and endanger innocent lives. In retaliation, Wayne tracks down Robin, who has been acting as the Joker’s accomplice, and beats him bloody. As he watches the battered teen run away in tears, Wayne finally snaps and puts a bullet in his mouth, effectively ending his own life as Batman once more. It is heavily implied in the graphic novel that the trauma of being an accomplice to a crime spree and witnessing his co-star’s violent death had driven Robin to take his own life as well.

Batman’s Final Days

Following the death of Bruce Wayne, his butler Robin, and the Joker, all roads seemingly lead to Batman’s final days. After the Joker’s death in The Dark Knight, fans were understandably confused as to the identity of his killer, given that the real Joker had not yet been revealed. Some suspected it might be Ra’s al Ghul, the exiled son of Al Qaeda founder Abdul Thanassis al Ghul, while others believed it might be Two-Face, who was also revealed to be Joker’s accomplice in a couple of his early crime scenes. While many fans speculated who the mysterious figure would be, none could have predicted that the answer would play out as a young girl and her devilish grandpa.

In 2012’s The Lego Movie, we are introduced to a Lego Batman, who is a combination of Batman and Joker marketed to a younger audience. In the film, Joker forces Bail Mines, a crooked banker, to build a bomb to destroy his office tower. As a result, Bail Mines meets his match in the form of Mr. Fletcher, a police officer who is also a big fan of Batman. The two engage in a battle of wits that results in Mr. Fletcher getting his hands on a Batarang, a double-bladed fighting knife made famous (or infamous) from the 1960s television show. The stakes are raised when Joker, now possessing Mr. Fletcher’s Batarang, threatens to destroy Metropolis if Batman does not agree to take him on as a partner in crime. It is then we learn the identity of Joker’s mysterious accomplice: She is his grandpa, Abner White, the retired circus performer shown in the opening scene from The Dark Knight. It is also revealed that the reason Joker had been keeping his identity a secret was because his grandpa had assumed that he was really the Joker and hired a local gang called the Dulls to assassinate him. The movie’s climax sees Joker and his grandpa face-to-face for the first time in years, with the legendary criminal revealing his true identity after hypnotizing Grandpa White and making him see him as his father, Alfred, whom he had murdered. In the end, it is also revealed that Mr. Fletcher was, in reality, Batman the whole time, something that had been hidden from view due to his fear of being seen as a hypocrite. The two men embrace as Mr. Fletcher congratulates Batman on his disguise and reminds him that he is now in the right place, as he had always been. The image of the two men together, embracing as Mr. Fletcher reminds Batman of his own mortality and the tragic nature of his journey, is an image that will stay with fans for years to come.

While it would have been easy for Batman to have gone on a crime spree and continued his work as the world’s greatest detective, that is not how his story ended. Rather than continuing to fight crime and ignore his own mortality, he embraces his role as the man who saved Gotham and retired from fighting criminals, preferring instead to devote his time to ensuring that children around the world would never fear monsters or terrible deeds again. In a way, his journey was his tribute to the millions of people whose lives he had saved over the years and, for the first time in his life, he felt truly satisfied.